In Lehmann's Terms: the big freeze

Is it OK to freeze pizza dough?

Pizza dough can be frozen, but if you’relike most of us, and don’t have access toa blast freezer (mechanical blast freezingat -20° to -35°F with 600 to 800 linearfeet of airflow, or cryogenic blast freezingat -55° to -65°F), you’d be putting thedough into a static freezer at 0°F to -5°F,and allowing it to remain there until itis solidly frozen. This is referred to as“slow freezing.” Slow freezing sets a verylarge ice crystal size, which is deleteriousto yeast survival. For this reason, whendough is slow frozen, it has a frozenshelf life of only 10 to 15 days, duringwhich time it will exhibit consistent

performance after thawing (slackingout). For this reason, we recommendthat dough, when slow frozen, be given a10-day frozen shelf life; this will still giveyou three to five days to use the doughpast its expiration date.There has been some discussionabout the practice of freezing dough and freezing fully dressed, unbakedpizza skins. In both cases, slow freezingwill limit the shelf life of the dough tono more than 15 days. However, theeffect of slow freezing on any vegetabletoppings will be quite noticeable whenthe dressed skin is slacked out, as thevegetables will begin losing a significantamount of water from their cells; thiswill happen even if the frozen, dressedpizza skin is placed directly into theoven for baking. In a deck oven, you willtypically see a very wet pizza (what I callswamp pizza). In an air impingementoven, there is typically sufficient airflowdirected to the top of the pizza to dryup most, if not all, of the water releasedfrom the vegetable toppings, so theproblem may not be as pronounced. Thisis the main reason we suggest that take-and-bakepizzas never be placed into ahome freezer.

We want to open some express storesin the surrounding area. We don’t wantto mix dough at each location, so we’relooking at the possibility of freezing ourdough at the main store and transporting it to the express stores, where it will bestored frozen, then thawed and used asneeded. What advice can you give us inmaking our own frozen pizza dough?

While it’s possible to take your regulardough and freeze it immediately afterscaling and balling it, you will probablyfind that the following modifications willenhance the overall performance of thedough:

1. Due to its consistency, I recommendthe use of instant dry yeast (IDY) inthis specific application. Some manufacturersproduce a form of IDY that isdesigned specifically for use in frozendough systems. While not absolutelynecessary, you might look into getting asample to test in your dough to see if itperforms better than the standard IDYin your application.

2. Prehydrate the IDY in a small quantityof 95°F water for 10 minutes beforeadding it to the dough.

3. Since some of the yeast is damagedduring the freezing process, it isrecommended that the yeast level beincreased by ¼ over what you wouldnormally use in a fresh dough system.For example, if you normally use IDYat 0.375% in fresh (nonfrozen) dough, itwould be advantageous to increase theyeast level to 0.468% (round to 0.5%)when making frozen dough.

4. Check with a local bakery ingredientsupplier and purchase some ascorbicacid tablets (search online for “ascorbicacid tablets bakery application” to finda supplier). Each tablet will provide aspecific amount of ascorbic acid per 100pounds of flour weight. Let’s assume thatyou’re using 40 pounds of flour in yourdough, and each tablet provides 60 partsper million (ppm) of ascorbic acid per100 pounds of flour weight. Divide 100by 40 to get 2.5. So each tablet, if addedto your dough, would provide 150 (2.5multiplied by 60) ppm of ascorbic acidto your dough. Typically, frozen doughthat will be slow frozen responds well tothe addition of 90 to 180 ppm of ascorbicacid. So, in this case, one tablet wouldbe a good starting point. If you needto adjust the amount added, a simpleway to do this is to dissolve a tablet in ameasuring cup of warm water. If the cuphas a capacity of 16 ounces, each ouncewill contain 9.375 ppm of ascorbic acid.So, to add 120 ppm, all you would needto do is to divide 120 by 9.375, whichmeans that 12.8 ounces of the waterfrom the measuring cup would containthe needed 120 ppm. You could roundthis off to either 12.75 or 13 ounces. Theascorbic acid will help to strengthen thedough after thawing, to further improvethe handling properties.

5. Adjust the water temperature to giveyou a finished dough temperature in the65°F-to-70°F range. This will probablymean using water at about 45°F inthe dough.

6. Limit the amount of fermentation thatthe dough receives prior to freezing bytaking the dough directly from the mixerto the bench for scaling and balling.Immediately tray it and place it into thefreezer until it is solidly frozen (aboutfour to six hours). Note: I like to partiallyflatten the dough balls to reduce theircross-section, as this makes it easier tofreeze them.

7. As soon as the dough balls are frozen,wipe them lightly with oil and bulkpackagethem into corrugated boxeswith a 2 millimeter-thick polyethylenebag liner. Be sure to label with a date ofproduction and a use-by date.

What is the best way to thaw (slack out)commercial, frozen pizza dough?

Most commercial frozen dough manufacturerswill recommend that the doughbe placed onto lightly oiled sheet pans,or into dough boxes, and allowed to thawovernight in the cooler for use on the followingday. However, here at AIB, we’vefound another way to handle frozendough that might make a better finishedpizza. Place the frozen dough balls intoplastic dough boxes, and lightly oil thetops of the dough balls. Stack the boxesin the cooler (do not cross-stack), and allowthe dough to thaw overnight. Removethe dough boxes from the cooler and allowthem to stand at room temperaturefor one hour. Take the dough boxes backinto the cooler for use on the followingday. This allows the dough to slack outovernight; then, when you pull the doughout of the cooler and allow it to stand atroom temperature, the dough begins towarm slightly, allowing for some fermentationto take place after the dough hasbeen put back into the cooler during thesecond overnight period. We’ve foundthat this results in a crispier, more flavorfulfinished pizza crust.

Tom Lehmann is the directorof bakery assistance for theAmerican Institute of Baking(AIB). Need more dough advice?Visit the Dough Information
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